The moment every Barcelona fan had been dreading for years has finally arrived. Lionel Messi has left the club as a free agent, unable to pen a new contract, which had apparently been agreed months ago. While there could be more than meets the eye regarding the current situation, the Catalan giants must now prepare for a new era without their most successful player ever.
Financial and Structural Obstacles
In an official statement issued by FC Barcelona on Thursday August 5th, “financial and structural obstacles” were blamed for the departure of Messi. According to the press release, the player and club had “reached an agreement” for a new contract, yet “Spanish La Liga regulations on player registration” prevented the deal from going ahead.
The club is widely acknowledged to be mired in debts, estimated to be well in excess of 1 billion Euros, although steady progress has been made over the last couple of months to improve the economic situation at FC Barcelona. Nevertheless, like all clubs competing in LaLiga, they must still adhere to stringently enforced spending levels.
Just like every other club in the Spanish competition, Barcelona is held to regulations, which place a hard cap on what can be spent on player signings and wages. This was introduced by La Liga several years ago, in an attempt to remedy the worrying situation of club debts continually spiraling out of control.
This is essentially what denied Barcelona the possibility of registering Messi, ahead of the 2021-22 La Liga campaign. Current squad expenditure remains well above the designated spending caps, despite frantic attempts to offload several other high-earning players. This is on top of the financial circumstances at the club, making Messi’s contract renewal untenable.
Barcelona’s Future – Hard to Predict
Without any shadow of doubt, Messi cannot be replaced. There is no player on the planet who can match his unrivalled talent, leaving Barcelona with a huge dilemma before the new season begins.
For the last decade, the team has revolved around Messi, both in terms of squad building and tactics. Now that he is gone, Barcelona must look to forge a new path. Inevitably, this makes the road ahead extremely difficult to predict, given the team often faltered whenever Messi wasn’t in the starting eleven over the past few years.
Many of the leading sports betting sites are already lengthening odds for Barcelona, for all the competitions they will be competing in during the 2021-22 campaign. However, this could also mean that outright odds might provide better value for punters, which is something the online sportsbook review experts at SBO frequently highlight, alongside their detailed guides.
Habitually priced as the leading contenders for La Liga, alongside eternal rivals Real Madrid, it’s fair to say the current Barcelona side has been weakened significantly. Beyond the immediate impact of Messi’s exit, the club might yet be forced into releasing or selling other key players. While they could initially struggle, Barcelona could still remain strong enough to challenge for silverware.
Potent Attacking Options Remain
Following the departure of Messi, the most disappointed player is likely to be Sergio Agüero, who joined Barcelona to play alongside his great friend and Argentine compatriot. That being said, the former Manchester City player has the talent to become a vital attacking outlet at his new club.
Possibly capable of inheriting the role vacated by Messi will be Ansu Fati, who has phenomenal ability and massive potential. Before suffering an unfortunate knee injury last season, the 18-year-old wonderkid was already being hailed by BeSoccer as the future of Spanish football. The test will be whether this phenomenal young player can meet such expectations.
Memphis Depay was another astute signing by Barcelona, arriving on a free transfer from French side Lyon, where the Dutch international had exploded following a frustrating spell at Manchester United. The 27-year-old will now need to carry a heavier burden at his new club, although he certainly has the capacity to deliver.
Finally, while Ousmane Dembele appears to be staying put, he will be out of action for at least three months after being injured at Euro 2020 with France. His compatriot Antoine Griezmann could become the main attacking outlet for Barcelona, but the 30-year-old is starting to show signs of decline.
So although Lionel Messi’s departure from the club will make Barcelona’s life in La Liga difficult this year, they have several quality attacking players capable of taking over and inspiring new life after the Argentinean’s departure to PSG.
After taking a few days to reflect on Canada’s disappointing loss against Croatia, I have been able to take away many positives from the performance. Kamal Miller won’t get much in the way of praise after being hung out to dry at the end of the game, but he had another brilliant performance at the back. Alphonso Davies meanwhile bagged the nation’s first goal at a Men’s World Cup inside just two minutes of action, waking my neighbours up as I yelled of joy. But in dissecting the game further, it’s clear to see that Croatia operated at a higher level, with their fanciful one-touch triangulations causing chaos for Canada every time they had the ball. For what feels like the first time ever, a few things will need to drastically change from a tactical standpoint heading into the next fixture from John Herdman’s team. Here are my reflections on Canada’s 4-1 defeat to Croatia.
Canadian footballers operating in the MLS have been notoriously underrated over the years, but now with the nation putting themselves on the world stage, clubs across the globe should start to pay more attention to our greatest players. One of those who has announced himself on the grandest stage is CF Montreal’s Kamal Miller. Miller’s been arguably Canada’s best defender across the two opening group stage matches at the 2022 World Cup, serving as a nice compliment to his defensive partner Steven Vitoria at the back. With a range of qualities on and off the ball, Miller could easily be playing for a club in Europe’s top five leagues already. So with that, we aim to strengthen Miller’s case for a move across the pond.
Canada’s much anticipated first World Cup match in 36 years lived up to the billing, with the Canadians dominating one of the best sides in the world in Belgium. The 1-0 loss will be a slight disappointment for Herdman and his men, but the Maple Leafs will take away the positives from the performance heading into their final two group games. Here is our analysis of Canada’s 1-0 defeat to Belgium.